Whales Get Right of Way at Martha’s Vineyard Wind Farm Construction Site

offshore wind farm under construction
DJ Mattaar / Shutterstock

By Christopher Martin (Bloomberg) — Migrating whales will have the right of way off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard starting this month under a new agreement between a wind developer and environmental groups.

Vineyard Wind, which is building the first commercial-scale offshore wind farm in the U.S., has agreed to halt some construction activity between January and April, during the period when some endangered North Atlantic right whales are most likely to pass through the area. Extra protocols, including whale spotting, will be in place in November, December and May.

Vineyard Wind agreed to stop pile driving for the 800-megawatt offshore wind farm during peak whale-traffic periods, according to a joint statement Wednesday with the Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation and Conservation Law Foundation. That means it won’t insert foundation poles for the arrays into the seabed when whales might be around.

“The right whale protection provides an important template other offshore wind projects should consider,” Mark Drajem, an NRDC spokesman, said in an email. Vineyard Wind, a partnership of Avangrid Inc. and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, will also reduce boat speeds and curtail some work during nearby whale sightings, according to the agreement.

More than 10 gigawatts of offshore wind is expected to be built along the U.S. East Coast over the next decade, according to BloombergNEF.

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